History 3460: DIGITAL HISTORY
Baruch College, CUNY
Profs. Thomas Harbison and Luke Waltzer
Course blog: https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/digitalhistory
Please send emails to both firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
MW 5:50-7:05 | Classroom: VC 9-170
Office hours: MW 4:00-5:00pm, or by appointment | Office location: 137 E. 25th St., Room 320
Welcome to Digital History. This course will explore current methods in the field, and also imagine future possibilities. You will study a range of theories of new media and employ them as you collect, analyze, and produce historical scholarship. Throughout the course we will assess how and why the creation, archiving, and interpretation of historical data are changing in the face of new forms of digital communication. We will also examine how these tools impact the primary goal of the historian: producing narratives that explain historical change. You will learn about and work with emerging tools in the areas of data mining, graphic information systems, image and audio production, and social media. With classmates, you will produce a digital project using data and artifacts that historicize the 2012 presidential election.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate familiarity with past and emergent trends in digital history, assess the quality and goals of existing digital history projects, select and deploy a digital toolbox while doing history, and publish historical materials in public spaces while respecting and adhering to the increasingly complex rules of intellectual property rights.
This class assumes that all students have prior experience studying history, and are somewhat familiar with traditional history methodologies. As such, prior completion of History 1000 or 1005 is required.
It is important that you attend all classes. We will study topics and practice with digital tools that are not covered by your work outside of class. More than two unexcused absences will affect your overall grade one full letter. You may be dropped from the class if you have more than four absences. Repeated lateness will affect your grade.
We expect all students to treat one another and the professors with the utmost respect. All participants in the class should feel free to disagree with and challenge one another and the professors, but must do so respectfully and with a total focus on the ideas being exchanged. Personal attacks of any kind will not be tolerated. Keep it about the ideas.
The Department of History fully supports Baruch College’s policy on Academic Honesty, which states, in part: “Academic dishonesty is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Cheating, forgery, plagiarism and collusion in dishonest acts undermine the college’s educational mission and the students’ personal and intellectual growth. Baruch students are expected to bear individual responsibility for their work, to learn the rules and definitions that underlie the practice of academic integrity, and to uphold its ideals. Ignorance of the rules is not an acceptable excuse for disobeying them. Any student who attempts to compromise or devalue the academic process will be sanctioned.”
Academic sanctions in this class will range from an F on the assignment to an F in this course. A report of suspected academic dishonesty will be sent to the Office of the Dean of Students. Additional information and definitions can be found at http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/academic/academic_honesty.html
You do not need to purchase a textbook for this course. All readings are available in electronic form, either linked from the course website or through E-Reserve at the Newman Library. You are expected to complete all readings by class time on the day that they are listed in the schedule below.
For most assignments, you will either publish a blog post or a series of comments to the course site. Specific instructions will be given on the site and announced in class on a weekly basis.
Assignments: Due at 8:00 am on the day they are noted. Students should make every effort to read each other’s posts before class meets that day.
Comments: You must comment on at least one other post on the course blog by Wednesday at 10:00 am.
Over the course of the semester you will work with a group to build a piece of digital history using artifacts and data from historical presidential elections as well as those that emerge during the 2012 presidential race. This project will require you to pose a question and answer it in a digital form. It must digest and integrate components of the following: spatial history, data mining and analysis, textual analysis, and visual and aural culture.
You will get two grades for the final project. The first is a group grade that takes into account the overall quality and thoughtfulness of your project, your group’s meeting of benchmarks along the way, and the presentation your group makes to the class at the end of the semester. The second is an individual grade based on an 8-10 page paper you will hand in on the final day of class that describes your contributions to the project, the choices your group made, and articulates how your project embodies the ideas we engaged during the course.
We will devote significant time in class and on our class blog to discussion of your projects, as well as the rubric we’ll use to assess them.
Final Grades will be calculated as follows:
Final project (group/presentation grade): 25%
Final project (individual grade): 25%
Course Schedule (subject to change… and it will!)
Week 1: Baselines
Goals: Survey the field, establish a common lexicon, assess the technical capabilities/resources of the students in the class.
Aug 27: Introductions
Aug 29: Lexicon and tools
- Complete survey on course blog
- Leave a comment on the welcome post here
- Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History, 2005, “Introduction,” and “Exploring the History Web.”
- Jonathan Shaw, “The Humanities, Digitized: Reconceiving the Study of Culture,” Harvard Magazine, May-June 2012.
Assignment due September 5:
Work for at least an hour with a digital tool that you have not used before, and write a post of no more than 500 words about the tool and how it might fit into the work of doing digital history.
Week 2: Collaboration
Goals: Establish the centrality of collaboration to doing digital history; identify a set of tools that facilitate collaboration.
Sep 3: No class — Labor Day
Sep 5: Collaboration
- Roy Rosenzweig, “Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,” Journal of American History, Vol. 93, No. 1 (June, 2006): 117-46.
- William Cronon, “Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World,” Perspectives on History, February 2012.
Assignment due September 10:
Using BuddyPress Docs in our course group on Blogs@Baruch, make an index of entries that reference a topic on Wikipedia that we will choose together in class. Each student must make at least one edit to an entry. You then must list and link to your edits in our group document.
Week 3: Intellectual Property and Ethics
Goals: Engage the complexity and contours for conflict around questions of intellectual property in the digital age; map what these questions mean for the doing of history.
Sep 10: Intellectual property and fair use
- Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History, “Owning the Past?”
Sep 12: Network ethics and historical knowledge
- Yoni Applebaum, “How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit,” The Atlantic, May 15, 2012.
- Mills Kelly, “You Were Warned,” Edwired, December 18, 2008. (Be sure to read the comments!)
Assignment due September 19:
1) Explore http://ds106.us/. Write a post of less than 500 words defining the approach members of this community take to questions of intellectual property, fair use, and network ethics.
2) Your group must settle on a topic idea, to be discussed in class on September 19.
Week 4: Research I
Goals: Learn to navigate a range of digital sources in online databases and archives to formulate and answer historical questions.
Sep 17: No class
Sep 19: Doing historical research online
- Cohen and Rosenzweig, Digital History, “Collecting History Online.”
- Sam Wineburg, “Thinking Like a Historian,” TPS Quarterly.
Assignment due September 24:
Group project proposal due on blog, supported by a list of sources. This will be discussed further in class.
Week 5: Research II
Goals: Define the meaning of “the archives” in digital space, and practice skills necessary to hunt down evidence.
Sep 24: Navigating digital archives
- Kate Theimer, “Archives in Context and as Context,” Journal of Digital Humanities, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring 2012).
Sep 26: No class
Assignment due October 1:
Archival scavenger hunt; topic to be discussed in class.
Week 6: Archiving History Digitally
Goals: Trace how archives have changed, and imagine how they might continue to change (in how they are created, preserved, and accessed) in the digital age.
Oct 1: Imagining the digital archive
- Stephen Brier and Joshua Brown, The September 11 Digital Archive: Saving the Histories of September 11, 2001, Radical History Review, Fall 2011.
Oct 3: Producing the digital archive
- “A Practical Guide to Collaborative Documentation in the Digital Age,” The Bracero Archive.
Assignment due October 10:
Spend at least one hour exploring a digital archive (we’ll provide you a list to choose from). Write a post of less than 500 words explaining how this archive was constructed, by whom, for what purpose, and what historical arguments it is making. What does the archive reveal about the evolution of archives in the digital age? What traditional attributes is it retaining? How does it receive visitors? How is information selected for inclusion? How is information organized, and presented?
Week 7: Data Mining and Textual Analysis
Goals: Compare different methods of data analysis within the fields of digital humanities and compare the strengths and weaknesses of each. Determine which historical questions can adequately be answered through data mining techniques and which cannot.
Oct 8: No class
Oct 10: Mining text data
- James Grossman, “‘Big Data’: An Opportunity for Historians?” March 2012.
- Ted Underwood, “Where to start with text mining,” The Stone and the Shell, August 14, 2012.
Assignment due October 15:
Revised group proposal due. Each group must assesses whether or not text mining has value for their project.
Week 8: Maps and Spatial Analysis
Goals: Explore the range of ways maps are being used in the making of digital history. Develop skill set necessary to effectively analyze maps deployed in support of historical arguments.
Oct 15: Surveying the historical uses of spatial analysis
- Richard White, “What is Spatial History?” Spatial History Lab: Working paper; Submitted February 1, 2010.
Oct 17: Applying spatial analysis to a single historical question
- William G. Thomas III and Edward L. Ayers, “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities.”
Assignment due October 22:
Create a historical map related to your project topic using one of the tools covered in class (each member of the group must produce a map). Post the map along with a 2-3 paragraph discussion of the potential value of this tool for your project and to historians more generally.
Week 9: Presenting Data Graphically
Goals: Assess how the advent of big data and digitization tools have influenced the visual culture of digital history. Develop a rubric for assessing effective presentation of data.
Oct 22: Presenting complex data accurately and efficiently
- Edward Tufte, “PowerPoint is Evil,” Wired, September 2003.
Oct 24: Organizing and formatting historical data
- Frederick W. Gibbs and Trevor J. Owens, “The Hermeneutics of Data and Historical Writing,” in Writing History in the Digital Age, 2012.
Assignment due October 29:
Identify and collect a set of data that answers one historical question implicated in your project. Create a graph, table, or timeline that communicates your findings to classmates outside of your group.
Week 10: Images [Note: classes cancelled this week for Hurricane Sandy]
Goals: Read and analyze images as primary historical sources. Integrate images with text and other media to communicate newly crafted historical arguments. Explore the implications of emerging modes of visual literacy for doing history.
Oct 29: New forms of visual history, 1850-2000 Joshua Brown, “History and the Web, From the Illustrated Newspaper to Cyberspace: Visual Technologies and Interaction in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries,” Rethinking History, Vol. 8, No. 2 (June 2004). Selections from Joshua Brown, Ithaca, A Graphic Novel in Several Parts. Philip J. Ethington, “Los Angeles and the Problem of Urban Historical Knowledge: A Multimedia Essay to Accompany the December Issue of The American Historical Review.” Oct 31: Judging the reliability of photographs Errol Morris, “Photography as a Weapon,” New York Times, August 11, 2008.
Week 11: ELECTION WEEK!
Goals: Track in real-time the processes by which a shared national experience is recorded and remembered during the immediate aftermath. Cover goals from last week (due to cancellation of classes for Hurricane Sandy).
Choose tools that we will use to document Tuesdays events
- Joshua Brown, “History and the Web, From the Illustrated Newspaper to Cyberspace: Visual Technologies and Interaction in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries,” Rethinking History, Vol. 8, No. 2 (June 2004).
- Errol Morris, “Photography as a Weapon,” New York Times, August 11, 2008.
Nov 7: Compile and organize election data
- Philip J. Ethington, “Los Angeles and the Problem of Urban Historical Knowledge: A Multimedia Essay to Accompany the December Issue of The American Historical Review.”
Assignment due November 12:
Detailed group project outline due (in form of site map — click here for details).
Week 12: Video and Audio
Goals: Explore the evolving possibilities of video and audio production for digital history.
Nov 12: What can the history of the documentary teach us about doing digital history?
Nov 14: Everyone now has a microphone and a recorder. What does this mean for digital history?
- Ira Glass on Storytelling, in four parts on YouTube:
Assignments due November 16 and November 21:
Do an assignment from the DS106 Video or Audio Assignment Bank. Your production must have an historical argument. When you embed it on our blog, articulate that argument in no more than 300 words. Post a brief proposal for your idea to the course blog by November 16.
Week 13: Public History in the Digital Age
Goals: Define the goals of public history and identify the ways in which digital tools enable historians to achieve them. Explore the differences between academic history and public history. Articulate how public history is changing in the digital age.
Nov 19: The goals of public history
- Anne Trubek, “A City’s History, Made Mobile,” Yahoo News, June 6, 2012.
Nov 21: No Class
Assignment due November 26:
As a group, be prepared to present to the class how your project echoes or departs from the norms of doing public history identified in the previous week’s discussion.
See here for revised assignment.
Week 14: Social Media
Goals: Understand how social media is changing the ways that historical research can be done and presented.
Nov 26: The evolving possibilities of public history
- Oscar Rosales Castañeda, “Writing Chicana/o History with the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project,” in Writing History in the Digital Age, 2012.
- Amanda Grace Sikarskie, “Citizen Scholars: Facebook and the Co-Creation of Knowledge,” in Writing History in the Digital Age, 2012.
Nov 28: Social media and history
- Lauren Martin, “Archiving Tweets,” Cac.ophony.org. (Read post and comments).
- Jeff Howe, “The Rise of Crowdsourcing,” Wired, June 2006.
- Bill LeFurgy, “Crowdsourcing the Civil War: Insights Interview with Nicole Saylor,” The Signal: Digital Preservation, December 6, 2011.
Work on your group project.
Week 15: Simulations and Games
Goals: Assess the impact of gamification on the construction of historical narrative.
- Jeremiah McCall, “Historical Simulations as Problem Spaces: Criticism and Classroom Use,” Journal of Digital Humanities, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring 2012).
James Paul Gee excerpt, TBA.
- Excerpts from Play the Past, TBA.
As a class we will design (but not build!) a historical game.
Week 16: Presentations
Goals: Be wowed.
Dec 10: Presentations 1
Dec 12: Presentations 2
Assignment due December 14:
Your group project, and your final paper.
This syllabus borrows from courses taught by Jeff McClurken, Dan Cohen, Trevor Owens, Sharon Leon, Cheryl Smith, Erica Kaufman, and the ds106 community. Baruch’s intrepid user experience librarian Stephen Francoeur has also been a big help. We thank them for their generosity and openness.